A Mooresville bachelor and his bride-to-be who wanted to wed in the water with dolphins – yes, dolphins – will grace the airwaves Saturday in the season premiere of TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress.”
Paul Allen and his now-wife, Lisa Rogers Allen, were vacationing in the Bahamas last April when Paul popped the question, amidst swimming excursions with dolphins and sea lions. Half-jokingly, they told the staff at Blue Lagoon Island that they wanted to return for nuptials with their new mammal friends.
Much to their surprise, the phone rang a couple of months later: Blue Lagoon staff and TLC execs offered the chance to be featured on “Say Yes to the Dress,” a reality TV show in which viewers follow couples through their wedding plans and dress selection.
It’s been a whirlwind year, the Allens say, from their April engagement to their November wedding. We caught up with them this week to get the scoop on the reality TV experience, although there are plenty of details the couple had to leave out due to their contracts with TLC.
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▪ Their route to the small screen was unconventional. Couples typically apply to be featured on “Say Yes to the Dress,” but producers were the ones to reach out first in the Allens’ case. Lisa, who teaches English as a Second Language at an elementary school in Georgia (she’s making the move to Mooresville in May, once school is out), was at Walt Disney World with a dance group she coaches on the side when she got the call from producers and Blue Lagoon staff.
Quickly, they found themselves on Skype and phone interviews with TLC producers, and in August they made the trip to NYC’s Kleinfeld Bridal, where the show’s couples are filmed selecting the bride’s dream gown.
▪ NYC was a dreamy experience, and Kleinfeld Bridal was as fun as it looks on TV. It was the couple’s first trip to New York City, and they say they were wowed by the city and their shopping trip to Kleinfeld Bridal, made famous by the show.
“Kleinfeld’s is off the chain. You walk in and it’s amazing,” said Paul, an accountant and builder who works in the modular home industry. “Everybody there is extremely nice, and Randy (Fenoli, one of the stars of the show who helps all the brides choose their dresses at Kleinfeld) was just like he seems on TV.”
In the one clip that TLC released prior to the show, Lisa, in her thick Georgia accent, drops the bomb that she wants a bodice and ball-gown style skirt that she can rip off dramatically before getting in the water with dolphins for the vows. Randy’s and his assistant’s jaws drop.
▪ Being followed around by cameras wasn’t as weird as it seems. “It was an absolute blast,” Paul said. “I didn’t act any different, I’m just going to be me. ... They kept saying, ‘You all are naturals – we don’t have to redo anything.’ For us it was a real smooth thing.”
For Lisa, the most stress-inducing part was being miked for her entire wedding day – and worrying that the headset-wearing cameramen would hear her, ahem, powder her nose, in the ladies room.
“That was the only stressful part,” she said. “I was really sick a couple of days when we taped. There was a clip where I almost threw up on the cameraman,” Lisa said. “When it’s reality TV, it’s really real.”
▪ They’re sharing the timeslot with a tough competitor: the Carolina-Duke basketball matchup. Both the show and the game start precisely at 8 p.m., and Paul already has indigestion.
“I’m like, ‘Listen, we’ve got a huge problem Saturday,’ ” Paul laughed. “I’m a huge Tarheel fan. I literally get sick if Duke wins. I’m going to be trying to figure out how to watch the game and the show at the same time.”
▪ So did they indeed wed with the dolphins? And did she get the cutaway dress? The couple is banned from giving spoilers, and they say they can’t tell how much the dress or wedding cost or who paid for what. They themselves have only seen a short clip of the show.
But they promise the episode will be surprising to viewers.
“There is a humongous twist,” Paul says.